Legal Issues When Managing Public Roads Affected by Sea Level Rise: Florida

22 Pages Posted: 26 Aug 2019

See all articles by Thomas Ruppert

Thomas Ruppert

University of Florida

Erin L. Deady

Erin L. Deady, P.A.

Jason M. Evans

Stetson University

Crystal Goodison

University of Florida - College of Design, Construction and Planning

Date Written: June 1, 2019

Abstract

The State of Florida has 1,350 miles of coastline that will be reshaped by sea-level rise during the next century. By year 2100, mean sea level is projected to be from 20 to 98 inches above levels measured in 1992. Tropical storms and hurricanes have also become more intense in the past twenty years and are likely to remain intense as the climate warms. Sea-level rise and consequential flooding threaten public roads, and addressing this threat requires a clear understanding of who is responsible for public road maintenance, and determination of risk related to what happens when road maintenance becomes locally infeasible due to environmental conditions and finances.

This white paper begins by describing the jurisdiction and authority over public roads in Florida, and then it identifies the maintenance duties for each governmental entity that manages these roadways: state, county, and municipality. This white paper then discusses the elements of a negligence lawsuit and a nuisance claim, both of which could arise from the duty to maintain or repair roads. Next, this white paper explains the governmental power and possibility of raising sovereign immunity as a legal shield for defense in liability claims. Finally, this white paper discusses how a governmental entity could abandon a road to avoid maintenance responsibilities and the real potential of subsequent takings lawsuits that may follow.

Keywords: sea level rise, roads, government duties, abandonment, takings, adaptation

JEL Classification: K32, L98, R42, R52

Suggested Citation

Ruppert, Thomas and Deady, Erin L. and Evans, Jason M. and Goodison, Crystal, Legal Issues When Managing Public Roads Affected by Sea Level Rise: Florida (June 1, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3441438 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3441438

Thomas Ruppert (Contact Author)

University of Florida

PO Box 117165, 201 Stuzin Hall
Gainesville, FL 32610-0496
United States

Erin L. Deady

Erin L. Deady, P.A. ( email )

Jason M. Evans

Stetson University ( email )

Gulfport, FL 33707
United States

Crystal Goodison

University of Florida - College of Design, Construction and Planning ( email )

United States

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